Most recently, the retro baking goddess has taken on bread and savory pastries. What inspired you to take on gluten-free bread? Erin McKenna: I felt like I really had done everything I had set out to do with sweets, and the only big challenge was something that I had never even tested before, which was a savory bread. For me, it is pretty easy to do a sweets recipes, because I know the ingredients and formulas like the back of my hand. Bread is such a whole different beast — the portion of flour to starch is so different.
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How fast can she grow? But though the vibe is decidedly mod, the business is very BabyCakes sells gluten-free cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and pastries, made with ingredients such as coconut oil and bean flour and topped with agave-nectar frosting. A second BabyCakes store will open this fall in Los Angeles. The founder: McKenna, 32, grew up in San Diego, the 10th of 12 children in her family.
A few years ago, she was working as a fashion assistant at Budget Living when she was found to have wheat allergies. Unable to find a vegan bakery that could satisfy her sweet tooth, she decided to start her own, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Her friends in the fashion world helped her generate buzz. Vegan cooking is growing in popularity, too. Challenges and opportunities: "Right now, I only want to focus on growing my business into a brand," says McKenna.
That may be easier said than done: There are at least eight other "Babycakes" bakeries in the U. McKenna has been aggressive for a baker when it comes to protecting intellectual property. Each employee signs nondisclosure and noncompete agreements that are good for three years from the date of hire. Rising food costs are another concern. McKenna works with specialized ingredients that are often provided by small, independently owned suppliers, so her costs are pretty high. The more stores she opens, the more leverage she will have to negotiate prices.
For now, she looks for creative ways to keep costs down. For example, McKenna has a cookbook coming out soon. In exchange for a discount, she mentioned some of her suppliers in the book. After that, McKenna is intrigued with the idea of franchising. A number of customers have already expressed interest in opening BabyCakes stores in other cities, and she likes the idea of holding a competition that asks potential franchisees to submit videos pitching their merits.
McKenna is also considering moving into packaged foods to be sold at upscale health food stores. Her food is delicious, and allergy-friendly foods have become a huge issue. If people are eating this way for health reasons, then they are fanatics, and if they are shopping at BabyCakes because their kids have allergies, then they are even more fanatical about it. But beyond health, she can also position her business as a lifestyle brand.
There are easier ways to get rich. So if Erin decides she is going to grow her business, she needs to ask herself some questions. How quickly does she want to grow? Does she have the people to do it? Does she have the organization to get there? And when it comes to adding new menu items, refined sugar is never ever going to be in a recipe.
Everyone who works for her understands that. But the amount of work you have to go through to franchise is enormous. She has protected herself, at least to some degree. How do you become a business that can grow without becoming something that feels like a chain? Because chain is sort of a dirty word. In order to open up multiple locations as a chef or a baker, you have to check your ego at the door. You have to rely on the fact that you can train someone, and that he or she will put his or her heart and soul into the business as much as you would.
I am going to focus most of my energy on packaged goods sold at health food stores. I think the key message is that if I keep everything creatively on track, the business will be OK. Recipes are notoriously hard to protect, no matter how much you try. Franchising lets you expand quickly, but beware the legal costs -- and the loss of control over your business. Published on: Jul 1, More from Inc.
Erin McKenna Bakery, New York City
How fast can she grow? But though the vibe is decidedly mod, the business is very BabyCakes sells gluten-free cupcakes, brownies, cookies, and pastries, made with ingredients such as coconut oil and bean flour and topped with agave-nectar frosting. A second BabyCakes store will open this fall in Los Angeles. The founder: McKenna, 32, grew up in San Diego, the 10th of 12 children in her family. A few years ago, she was working as a fashion assistant at Budget Living when she was found to have wheat allergies. Unable to find a vegan bakery that could satisfy her sweet tooth, she decided to start her own, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Vegan, Gluten-Free Thin Mint Cookies from Erin McKenna's BabyCakes
Feb 06, Punk rated it it was ok Where do I start? She describes coconut oil as "a bit pricey, but so are the heart attacks it helps prevent. I see later editions say " Mostly Gluten-Free" on the cover, but the copy I have in my hands does not. Then: The intermittent celebrity endorsements. Finally: The head notes are more chatty than helpful, and more offensive than charming.